1. Section Editor(s): Davis, Charlotte BSN, RN, CCRN

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As nurses, we play a vital role in creating a culture of safety within our clinical work area by maintaining an open line of communication with our healthcare team members, assessing our peers' and our own professional work habits and behaviors for safety risks, utilizing evidence-based practice (EBP) interventions in our patient protocols, and participating in shared governance workgroups. A safety culture is essential to optimize patient outcomes and workplace satisfaction.

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Open communication with colleagues can help us address practice issues that may potentially impact patient safety. If you witness unprofessional communication, address the issue in that moment. Many of our peers may be unaware of how their verbal and nonverbal communication is received and processed by other members of the healthcare team. If you don't feel comfortable addressing unprofessional behavior yourself, you should escalate your concerns to your supervisor. Giving colleagues the chance to be aware of how their communication style is negatively impacting the team provides them with an opportunity to change before it affects the unit's culture.


Incorporating an EBP initiative such as a "time out" immediately before procedures allows us to ensure that we're all in agreement. Vocalize any concerns you have by using a simple statement that includes the words "I'm concerned," which can resolve unsafe work practices and assist in sustaining a healthy work environment. Likewise, if you identify an organizational process that may compromise patient safety, immediately share your concerns with your supervisor.


Another way to attain a culture of safety is to take part in shared governance workgroups. By actively contributing to your unit's shared governance committee, you can identify safety risks and provide realistic solutions. Your organization needs your clinical insight!


Remember to "lead by example" and role model professional communication skills. "Manage up" by verbalizing your team's strengths to other members of your organization. Make use of standardized shift reporting when transferring or receiving care of a patient to prevent communication errors. This generates a culture of safety by ensuring that all healthcare team members feel well informed and valued, and strengthens team cohesiveness.


Nurses are strong patient safety advocates and we continue to retain the title of the most trusted healthcare professionals. By having a heightened sense of awareness and minimizing distractions during high-risk tasks, such as medication administration and handoff reporting; speaking up when we have a patient safety or clinical practice concern; embracing EBP; and exemplifying excellent team-building and communication skills, we can save lives.